Kumamoto City is the capital of Kumamoto Prefecture and the third largest city on Japan’s southwest island of Kyushu. The towns of Akita, Kawachi, Tenmei, and Hokubu were merged to form the current City in 1991.
Kumamoto is one of Japan’s leading agricultural areas, with the sixth greatest output of agricultural products of all Japanese municipal areas. It is also home to a number of universities and major manufacturing companies. Kumamoto Castle, originally built in 1487, is the City’s most famous landmark – to ensure a clear view from the Castle, city ordinances forbid the construction of high-rise buildings near it.
Kumamoto has received international recognition for its water management practices, particularly in relation to groundwater conservation. The nearby Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, is a vital source of clean and abundant groundwater for the City – it provides residential, agricultural, and industrial water for its entire population. The City has been working towards the protection of groundwater for many years and received the “Water for Life’ UN-Water Best Practices Award” in March 2013.
Also known as “The Forest Capital” (“Mori no Miyako”), Kumamoto has worked to increase urban greenery in the city limits. Kumamoto is currently planning to become more livable and sustainable by concentrating City functions in key areas and improving its public transportation.
As Japan faces a serious population decline, Kumamoto’s population is estimated to also decline to 660,000 by 2040. Furthermore, the City is already a super-aging society – in 2010, over 21% of Kumamoto residents were over the age of 65, and the percentage is projected to increase to over 33% by 2040. Expansion of the city area and increased motorization will present additional problems as Kumamoto’s population shrinks and its average age grows.
Kumamoto aims to create a more livable city by changing the course of development towards one that is compact and sustainable. The City’s goal is to become “a vibrant multi-hub city supported by abundant water, greenery, a variety of city services.” This “multi-hub” city vision includes a central hub and surrounding regional hubs that are well connected by public transportation. Through this multi-hub city development, Kumamoto can create an urban space that is compact, walkable and accessible by public transportation, and which remains sustainable, livable and easy to move around for anyone as the population declines.
To achieve this vision, the City plans to guide housing development in areas accessible by public transit and concentrate city/urban functions to the central and regional hubs, and is actively working towards enhancing the public transportation network by strengthening its functions and improving its convenience.
Through this exchange, Kumamoto hopes to learn about initiatives taken by other project cities as well as trends in city development and use that knowledge as a reference to support the City’s economic and regional revitalization.